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2014 Local Government Service Group Conference
1 January 2014

Conference applauds the leadership and decision of the NJC Committee to ballot members for strike action starting on 10 July, following the derisory pay offer made by the Local Government Association on 21 March and the decisive vote by members to reject it in UNISON’s internal consultation. That every NJC region/nation returned a position to reject the derisory offer – a further real term pay cut – is testament to the hard work of our NJC Committee, Regions, branches and activists over the past year.

Conference agrees that in calling the ballot the NJC Committee took both the right approach and the only approach left when faced with recalcitrant and duplicitous employers.

Conference believes that the overwhelmingly female NJC workforce has been treated with derision and taken for granted for too long and that the time has come to say “enough is enough”.

Conference welcomes:

1) The decision of the NJC Committee to escalate our action by striking for two consecutive days in September if the employers refuse to re-open negotiations.

2) The excellent campaign materials produced by the Local Government Service Group and the support for protest days and the campaign by branches.

3) The ballots being carried out by GMB and Unite for simultaneous action with UNISON.

Conference notes that:

a) The NJC workforce has the lowest pay and worst conditions of the whole public sector, with 450,000 members below the Living Wage.

b) The decline in NJC pay has been long-term and is accompanied by cuts to pay and conditions at local level across much of local government and an erosion of the power of the NJC bargaining machinery.

c) Our members are covering the work of half a million posts which have gone through redundancy or deletion.

d) The NJC employers have regrettably sought to manipulate the concerns of their dedicated workforce into accepting pay cuts as the ‘bargain’ for supposedly maintaining job security. With the jobs lost in four years and a 20% cut in the real value of NJC earnings, that position is now exposed for the myth it always was.

e) 55% of the cost of our claim for at least £1 an hour would be met through increased tax and national insurance ‘take’ and reduced spending on in-work benefits.

f) The Local Government Association (LGA) regards the offer as “non-negotiable” and has already said that it would not participate in arbitration via ACAS.

g) Control of the Local Government Association passed to Labour following the local elections.

h) Two separate letters and requests for meetings with the Chancellor and Secretary of State for Local Government to discuss pay have not been answered.

Conference agrees we will face a challenge to motivate our members and activists to deliver the action and campaigning necessary to gain a worthwhile offer this year. To redress significant earnings loss and restore true collective bargaining worth its name will not be won by a one-day strike or a one-day march. This is a campaign that needs to continue irrespective of who forms the next Government

Conference understands that an industrial organising campaign needs to be part of an overall strategy that incorporates political campaigning, education, agitation, individual and collective development, modern media management and back-to-basics workplace presence in a cohesive and understandable framework.

In the light of the above, Conference calls on:

i) The Service Group Executive (SGE) and the NEC to ensure that the resources of the entire union are used in the remaining days of the ballot to mobilise outstanding votes in support of strike action.

ii) The SGE to fully support the NJC Committee in securing the necessary resources to prosecute industrial action as part of the NJC pay campaign;

iii) Regions to allocate resources to ensure a massive turnout for strike action if a ‘yes’ vote is secured.

iv) The NJC Committee to develop a campaign strategy for the summer to ensure the dispute is kept ‘live’ and support is built for further action in September.

v) The NJC Committee to draw up a longer-term strategy to run alongside industrial action to re-build effective collective bargaining and pay and conditions which reflect the value of our members’ vital work in providing local services.

vi) Further approaches to be made to the Labour leadership of the LGA to seek urgent talks on a revised and improved pay offer and re-establishment of effective bargaining machinery and a collective agreement which ‘sticks’.

vii) The NJC Committee to work with other Service Groups and sectors to engage the entire membership of the union in a mass lobby of councillors to shift the employers’ position.

viii) The SGE to work with the NJC Committee, the Service Group Liaison Committee and the NEC to ensure that action on pay across the union and by other unions is co-ordinated to maximise its impact on employers and public support for our dispute.

ix) The SGE to work with Labour Link to mobilise Labour councillors and the Shadow Cabinet to recognise the position of NJC workers and commit to establishing much improved pay and conditions in a future Labour government

Conference further recognises that one of the characteristics of this year’s pay campaign has been a much closer integration between the NJC Committee and regions. This has been apparent in the development of materials and campaign planning. Conference agrees that this coordinated and inclusive approach is essential to maintaining momentum, sharing experiences and to informing the decisions of the NJC Committee, as the sector body responsible for determining the direction of our dispute. NJC Regions/nations can convene all-branch meetings at short notice and relatively little expense to branches or the union. This has been an important feature in developing the NJC pay campaign to date and is the most practical, democratic and inclusive way for all NJC branches to have a direct input to their Regional NJC Representatives that they elect and hold to account.

Conference further agrees:

x) That prior to making any recommendation to the membership on any further offer on NJC pay for 2014/15 or decision on the cessation of industrial action the NJC Committee seeks the views of every NJC Region/Nation who shall expedite meetings of all their NJC Branches.